CMO profile: The challenges of multi-platform, regional marketing

Digital Realty vice-president marketing for Asia-Pacific, Omer Wilson talks to CMO about B2B multi-platform marketing in the multi-country, multi-culture Asia-Pacific region

The first thing Digital Realty's APAC marketing operations chief, Omer Wilson, noticed upon taking up his regional role was just how quickly Southeast Asian countries are growing.

Wilson, who grew up in Hong Kong and now heads APAC marketing operations for Digital Realty out of Singapore, clearly had a link to the region, but didn’t know Singapore that well. Wilson held the VP marketing post in London before moving to Singapore to steer marketing operations for the global data centre provider.

"The first thing you see is that Asia-Pacific as a whole is growing very quickly. But where we’re headquartered, and in the emerging markets around us through their size of population and base of users - Indonesia, Malaysia, China and India - there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening I need to address a marketer," he told CMO.

The second thing Wilson realised was differing maturity levels between the two parts of the globe.

Omer WilsonCredit: Digital Realty
Omer Wilson


“Whereas Europe was on the more advanced, mature scale of customer development from a B2B corporate standpoint, in Asia it feels like it’s the start and there’s a lot of innovative stuff you can and have to do,” he said.

As a result, Wilson's regional marketing strategy is being created to reflect the more varied make-up of the region. 

“In Asia, while the customer and technology buyer might generally have the same problems, there's a lot of digital transformation, they’re coming at it from very different angles. So the way we go to market in Japan, for example, will be very different from how we do that in Australia or elsewhere,” he said.

“In North American, you can have an East Coast solution that will translate easily to the West Coast, for example. Even to a degree in Europe that's true, even though it's not a single state. There are obviously different languages present, but the go-to-market strategy can be similar."

The geographical and cultural spread of Asia, however, requires Digital Realty to be very targeted, localised and work quickly to engage customers, Wilson said. From a practical marketing deployment, that means mixing up intimate, targeted one-to-one discussions and briefing sessions tailored to the industry in countries such as Japan, to more low-touch webinars or exhibitions where appropriate in other places. All while keeping one consistent brand story globally.

Responding with the right message

To do this, it's vital Digital Realty contextualises marketing to the level of market maturity and readiness for outsourcing data centres by industry and country across the region.

“Asia is a bit behind the curve in terms of cloud, but there’s a lot of activity with people building for and moving to the cloud," Wilson explained. “That reflects how mature the company is in terms of data centre outsourcing. For example, are you ready for the idea of not just moving your content to the cloud, but taking servers and putting them in a third-party facility such as ours?”

Another challenge in the Asian region, Wilson has found, is tailoring marketing efforts towards the younger, mobile-oriented population and their pace.

“You see new technologies just taken up much quicker than in Europe and North America, and that gives you new opportunities to use new technologies when going out to the market,” he said.

What's more, the impact of mobile on the way of doing business, even with senior B2B audiences, is significantly different from what Wilson describes as the “old days” when marketing for B2B and B2C was “quite distinct”. He cited a merging of formerly business and social platforms around mobile at the senior level, that is fundamentally altering the style and execution of B2B.

“Even with our company, and c-suite people, we're seeing these concepts merge together. So when talking about mobile marketing, we’re not just talking about Twitter and Facebook, it's also LinkedIn,” Wilson said. “And what you find is business decision makers and their personas stretch across platforms.”

For Wilson, Digital Realty's marketing journey must start on one platform and be able to move across to other platforms to stay in touch with the c-suite personnel in a corporate prospect and customer - much like a B2C brand might do with individual customers.

“You might start on Twitter, then Facebook to a lesser extent, then they’ve switched to LinkedIn, even if it’s a Saturday or Sunday, and then we’ll target them there. And then they’ll have the mailer in their inbox, probably on the same phone,” Wilson added.

B2B marketing progression

It's a far cry from the early days of his B2B marketing career, when Wilson spent time at businesses like IBM. Corporate marketing targeting was about hard copy and direct mail, and the challenge was finding relevant contact details like addresses. 

In the space of almost 20 years, he’s seen the marketing playbook become far more nuanced and granular. But that brings with it a much more complex playbook in terms of ways marketing has to stay in touch, the data it collects and what it produces through a more digital relationship.

“If you do your research properly and a prospect has been to one of your events, you can target a specific buyer you want to get to. The issue is keeping the brand and then the message consistent as it appears on all those platforms,” Wilson said.

For a business like Digital Realty operating in a region with so many different markets, there’s the challenge of balancing that with localisation. What's more, not all of its cloud platform offerings are going to be relevant to each country within the region.

There are a lot of levers to pull to connect, which in turn demands sophisticated coordination and harmonising across the business, Wilson said. His ambition is that the net effect is consistent but not tone deaf to the unique customers groups within the region and globally.

“This comes back to how as a corporation you keep the message consistent, not just between platforms, when you’ve got the same message appearing on the global Twitter account, for example, as the APAC account. It’s coordinating different teams in different regions so the customer sees one message.

“We sell to very global customers and it might be different people or it might be the same person at the top level moving between different markets and buying from us for regions spanning Europe, Latin America, Asia or North America. For that person to see the same digital brand on all platforms in all regions is very powerful if we can get it right.”

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